Creatine. If you’re in the fitness community you’ve definitely heard about it. Some people swear by it and others worry that it brings negative side effects similar to anabolic steroids.
So which is true? Should you consider using creatine?
Everything You Need to Know About Creatine
Creatine is the most studied supplement in the fitness industry. It is inexpensive and increases lean muscle mass, making it desirable for anyone looking to increase their strength. Along with weight training and proper nutrition, creatine is an effective way to pack on muscles and improve recovery rates.
This article will dive deep into everything you could wonder about the supplement as well as provide some of the best brands to use.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is naturally found in the muscles and helps produce energy while training. The body produces creatine from amino acid’s glycine and arginine. Most natural creatine resides in the muscles as phosphocreatine.
Creatine combines with a phosphoryl group to form PCR through a creatine kinase reaction. ATP converts into ADP, which provides energy for metabolic activity. This process maintains ATP during arduous workouts, allowing the user to get a few more reps in.
Your liver and kidneys produce about one gram of creatine a day while your muscles store it consistently.
How Does Creatine Work?
Phosphocreatine helps the body produce adenosine triphosphate. ATP comes from the foods that the body breaks down. ATP is stored as energy and released during training. The more ATP, the more work the body can do.
The majority of creatine in the body is either the phosphorylated form which makes up 60%. The free-form of creatine makes up 40%. Creatine synthesis requires the amino acid’s glycine, arginine, and methionine.
When ingested, it is transported into the cells by CreaT1. CreaT2 is another creatine transporter that is active in the body. CreatT1 becomes sensitive to extracellular and extracellular levels when creatine decreases.
CreaT1 transports creatine into the mitochondria. Studies prove that creatine supplementation combined with resistance training leads to increased physical performance, fat-free mass, and muscle size.
Creatine is also effective for improving muscle recovery and reducing muscle injury. Creatine decreases markers of muscle damage such as creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, and aldolase.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine has antioxidant properties due to the arginine found in it. Arginine also helps with nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide allows for better blood flow and pumps in the gym. Nutrients are delivered to the muscles quicker as vasodilation increases.
Creatine provides enhanced recovery for athletes, allowing their muscles to recover quicker after intense training. Ingesting creatine and carbohydrates increases glycogen loading in the body. Carbs are converted into glycogen as energy during exercise. This conversion gives the user more vitality to get through demanding workouts.
Further, benefits include stamina for long-term muscle gain, which is ideal for those looking to keep their body in shape for good. Creatine also promotes cell regeneration, a process essential for increasing muscle mass and tone.
Supplementing with creatine increases the water content of your muscles and creates visible changes in your muscle size. Although more human research is necessary, animal studies show promising results for the effect of creatine on seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s, and brain injuries.
Creatine Side Effects
Some extreme side effects of creatine use include kidney stones, kidney failure, and liver problems.
These are rare, but they have occurred. Always talk with your doctor before starting any new supplements or workout routines, especially if you have a medical history of kidney stones.
Other conditions that may cause issues with creatine are bipolar disorder, kidney disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Creatine may increase mania in bipolar individuals, worsen kidney problems, and, if used with caffeine, increase Parkinson’s tremors.
Try not to ingest a ton of caffeine while taking creatine.
Some people might experience bloating, cramps, or upset stomach when beginning creatine. These side effects ordinarily go away, but if they continue to worsen or cause extreme discomfort, make an appointment with your doctor.
The company must give a full breakdown of all the ingredients contained in their product. If a proprietary blend is listed, they are not listing every component in the supplement. Try to keep away from these products as you don’t know what hides in them.
Creatine works best in its purest form, Creatine Monohydrate, but proprietary blends may deplete its effectiveness.
Companies that have their products third-party tested are the best. Well-known companies with high ratings are also good choices. Read customer reviews about the company to see what other customers are saying.
Which Foods Contain Creatine
Most red meats and fish contain high amounts of creatine. Every 1 to 2 pounds of beef contains about 1 gram of creatine. Cooking beef does decrease the creatine content by 5 percent. Rarer cuts of steak and beef will provide higher creatine contents.
Pork contains about 1 to 2 grams of creatine per pound. A pound of salmon contains about 1 to 2 grams of creatine as well. Red meat is the easiest way to ingest natural creatine, but if you would rather not eat red meat, supplements have your back.
If you already eat a red meat-based diet, creatine may not do as much for you as for someone who eats chicken and fish. Vegetarians and vegans often see the fastest results from creatine since they don’t get any from the food they eat.
How to Take Creatine
Most people just mix their creatine with water. However, this method may not work as effectively for everyone as other methods. Grape juice may help the creatine work better in the body.
Grape juice contains sugars that cause insulin to release in the body, allowing creatine to enter muscle fibers. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes are another decent choice to replace the electrolytes lost from training. Soluble formulas work best with water, but you can mix them with protein shakes or smoothies.
Ensure you stay hydrated while taking creatine to ensure the most amount of water gets pushed into the muscles. Always read the instructions on the packaging for the best results.
Does Creatine Work for Everyone?
No, it is possible to be a non-responder to creatine. Those who already have diets high in red meat will not notice as much difference when eating creatine. That is because their meat consumption satisfies their daily creatine requirement. Extra creatine supplementation will not make a big difference.
Those who eat vegan diets or small amounts of red meat will notice a big difference when taking creatine. The effects of creatine are observed the most during heavy weight sessions. If you are not lifting heavy, you might not detect its benefits.
Also, note that you should not expect to gain muscle mass while taking creatine without engaging in physical activity. You have to practice endurance and aerobic exercise to reap the most benefits from creatine.
Creatine and Fat Loss
Creatine increases the amount of lean muscle mass in the body. The more muscle mass, the more fat that the body burns. It also provides more energy, resulting in longer cardio sessions and burning more fat.
Creatine does stop the body from breaking down muscle and protein even if eating in a calorie deficit. If you are dieting and trying to burn fat, creatine will ensure that you don’t lose muscle mass.
Creatine also pulls water into the muscles, which helps prevent muscle fiber damage when dieting. This effect allows the lifter to lose fat while still keeping on muscularity. You must eat a healthy, balanced diet on creatine for the best results.
What Happens If You Stop Taking Creatine?
Stopping creatine will deplete creatine stores in the body. You may notice a loss of water weight, slight strength decrease, and increased fatigue. Since creatine draws water into the muscles, it is typical to lose some water weight immediately after stopping it.
If you notice your muscles appear deflated or not as full, they are not as filled with water. The body will have less ATP and less energy. You may notice yourself becoming fatigued sooner while training.
Supplementing creatine can also suppress the body’s natural production of creatine. Once supplementation stops, the body will slowly return to its natural production rate. While muscles may not look as filled due to water loss, the muscles have not gotten smaller.
As long as you are still training and eating, stopping creatine should not decrease muscle size. The gains that you made while on creatine will not go away after stopping taking it. If you have no reason to stop taking it, there is no reason to stop taking creatine.
If you use the recommended dose and aren’t experiencing any side effects or health issues, creatine is safe for long-term use.
Types of Creatine
Here are the different types of creatine so that you can decide which is best for your needs.
The monohydrate creatine variation is one of the most common (and beneficial) versions. Affordable creatine supplements usually contain monohydrates.
Monohydrates are molecules that contain one mole per compound. In the context of creatine, this means that they easily penetrate muscles and increase mass. The monohydrate formulation of creatine is the most widely studied, and scientists agree that there are no detrimental effects on the body.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
Creatine Ethyl Ester, derives from creatine monohydrate, but has an ester attached.
Athletes enjoy this formulation because you do not need much to get going. You may save money in the long run by purchasing it as a package will likely last longer than a traditional container of creatine. Some claim that CEE products absorb into muscles faster than regular creatine, but there is no sufficient research to back up that claim.
Creatine hydrochloride functions the same way as other formulations, but it has higher solubility. Therefore, it dissolves in water quickly and absorbs into the body quicker than a capsule variation.
Solubility is a significant benefit for those with gut issues, as it prevents excess material from entering your system and overwhelming your digestive tract. It also results in less water retention – so no bloating or excessive water weight!
Buffered creatine is creatine mixed with magnesium. Magnesium supports recovery and muscle retention and also helps regulate mood and energy.
Most people claim that they experience no difference in muscle mass between buffered creatine and the standard formula. Athletes that take a buffered version do so for further recovery support and less cramping. Like creatine HCl, the buffered formulations are better for sensitive palates and will not cause gastrointestinal problems.
Some athletes claim that your body tolerates liquid creatine more than other variations, but scientific data has not backed that up yet. Others state that liquid creatine is not as effective as supplementary versions, as it breaks down in the body before absorption.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
The creatine magnesium chelate formulation is similar to the buffered version, but instead of combining the two ingredients, the magnesium attaches to the creatine cells. No evidence supports that this variation is more or less effective than standard creatine.
Best Creatine Supplements
Below are the top 5 creatine supplements on the market that you should consider checking out.
XWERKS LIFT Creatine
XWerks contains three amino acid’s and creatine and is priced at $49.
The main benefits of XWerks Lift are to provide rapid strength and increase power. On their website, XWerks claims a strength increase of 8% and a one-rep max increase of 20-25%. XWerks also promises increased bench and squat strengths. This result will only happen when paired with resistance training and proper nutrition. XWerks also improves cognitive functioning.
XWerks increase satellite cells and myonuclei found in the muscles, leading to an increase in muscle growth. This product derives from micronized creatine nitrate. Each bag provides 80 5-gram servings of creatine. The powder is completely flavorless, so you can mix it with water, shakes, or any other beverage you enjoy post-workout. You can also take XWerks with meals during loading periods.
XWerks is entirely plant-based and vegan. You get 400g per bag, and the serving size is about 5 grams. One bag lasts 80 days. The XWerks creatine powder is 100% soluble and will not cause excess water retention and bloating. You can also trust XWerks to keep you focused and energized throughout your routine and improve comprehensive physical endurance.
Ghost size contains Creapure, jujube seed extract, and epicatechin and is priced at $44.
Ghost Size is actually a pre-workout that contains a 5-gram serving of Creapure. Creapure is Ghost’s purest high-grade Creatine Monohydrate. This product is meant to be taken about 30 minutes prior to working out. Each bag contains a 30-day supply.
Ghost provides a fully disclosed nutrition label of everything that is found in their product. They has a zero proprietary blend which means there isn’t anything hidden. This is always something consumers should look for when purchasing any supplement.
Betaine acts as an osmolyte which means that it helps balance fluid in the cells. It does so by pulling water into the muscles, increasing their fullness and size. This also improves hydration which is very important as the muscles are made up of water. This helps transport nutrients and blood into the muscles.
Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid in the brain and muscles. During exercise, it forms carnosine which reduces acid build-up. This reduces lactic acid buildup in the muscles. This allows for less fatigue and increased recovery.
Athletes can work out harder and for longer periods of time. Betaprime is also found in Ghost Size to reduce the amount of tingling that users feel from the beta-alanine. 200mg of epicatechin is used to increase nitric oxide levels in the body.
Nitric oxide is responsible for increasing vascularity, blood flow, and nutrient transport. The blood vessels dilate, allowing blood to move through the body quicker. Senactiv works similar to creatine as it increases ATP production which provides more energy during a workout.
Astragin is clinically dosed to increase the absorption of nutrients. This allows for carbs and protein to be absorbed into the body quicker. It is also used to improve sleep and mood. This is important because the muscles grow while we sleep.
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
The Transparent Labs Creatine HMB product comes with 5 grams of creatine, 1.5 grams of B-Hydroxy, 12.5mcg of Vitamin D, and 5mg of BioPerine. This product has 0 artificial sweeteners, colored dyes, or harmful additives and is priced at $44.99.
They offer nine flavors including sour grape, peach mango, fruit punch, black cherry, watermelon, blue raspberry, orange, and tropical punch.
B-hydroxy or HMB is used to increase muscle strength and hypertrophy, and enhance recovery. Studies show that HMB helps prevent lean muscle loss and decrease fat. The Transparent Labs creatine works best during resistance training.
The other primary ingredient in the Transparent Labs Creatine HMB is BioPerine. BioPerine comes from black pepper extract but does not affect the taste of the product. BioPerine increases nutrient absorption allowing the body to break down and use protein and carbs more efficiently. Black pepper increases absorption and promotes lean muscle mass.
You should take the Transparent Labs Creatine HMB powder 30 minutes after your workout for maximum benefits. On rest days, mix a scoop with 4-6 ounces of water for fast recovery. Each container comes with 279 grams of powder. A serving of the Transparent creatine is 7 grams which allow for a month of usage per container.
The CrazyBulk CRN-5 formula contains five different types of creatine and electrolytes. It boosts energy, increases lean muscle mass, and helps maintain hydration. The types of creatine are monohydrate, hydrochloride, ethyl ester, malate, and pyruvate. Its high creatine levels and recovery-boosting electrolytes mean you never has a bad day at the gym.
Trisodium citrate increases pumps and endurance in the gym. Blood flow and nutrient transportation also increase, allowing more blood into the muscles. Aquamin enhances gut health and the microbiome. Providing gut health allows for vital nutrients to be digested by the gut properly.
The CrazyBulk CRN-5 powder does not just help you lift weights. The formula has several added vitamins and minerals for bulking and making your muscles look cut and toned. Additionally, this product is vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
Aquamin mg contains magnesium which benefits metabolism, cellular energy, and bone health. Magnesium also improves flexibility which helps reduce tight muscles and prevent injury. Magnesium also prevents lactic acid buildup, helping reduce muscle soreness.
Potassium helps muscles send electrical signals and also prevents muscle cramps. Muscles will contract and communicate better when full of potassium.
The CrazyBulk CRN-5 supplement boosts endurance and regulates almost every part of your body – whether you lift weights professionally or just to gain muscle mass, this powder will help you get there.
Elm & Rye Creatine
Known for their high-end supplements and minimalist packaging, Elm & Rye has a particularly interesting creatine product. Their creatine comes in pill form – no need to mix it with shakes, water, or smoothies, which makes it great for those constantly on the go or who always seem to forget to take their pre-workout supplements.
Elm & Rye ensure their customers receive the highest quality products by enforcing third-party lab tests for all of their supplements. Customers can view the exact lab results of each product that they are purchasing to know exactly what is in it. They do not add any fillers or extra additives to their supplements. Their creatine is stored in the muscles to improve athletic performance and muscle mass.
This formulation contains 1400 milligrams of creatine. Each bottle contains a 30-day supply, and Elm & Rye suggest taking one capsule per day. You can get the Elm & Rye creatine supplements in capsule or gummy form, but the gummy form is not vegetarian or vegan. The capsules, however, are entirely vegan and soy-free.
Oral creatine may help prevent injuries, too. Elm & Rye suggest that their formula might alleviate joint, tendon, and muscle damage, as well as cramping and fatigue. This supplement is ideal for those that may have past injuries or need a little boost during recovery periods. It also increases energy during your workout, so you can maintain momentum and get the most out of your regime.
Not all creatine supplements are created equal, and not every formula works for everyone. Finding the right creatine supplement for you means researching brands, ingredients, and benefits so you gain the most muscle mass possible.
Creatine is safe and effective for most people. Try it out and see how it affects you.
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